Central Falls in the New York Times

Very worth reading. This is an in-depth look at the economic impact of the Wyatt Detention Center on the City of Central Falls, and the social effects of the crackdown on illegal immigration.

In this mostly Latino city, hardly anyone had realized that in addition to detaining the accused drug dealers and mobsters everyone heard about, the jail held hundreds of people charged with no crime — people caught in the nation’s crackdown on illegal immigration. Fewer still knew that Wyatt was a portal into an expanding network of other jails, bigger and more remote, all propelling detainees toward deportation with little chance to protest.

The article cites several cases of people being ‘disappeared’ without even one phone call to their relatives, and transferred to a prison in Texas without warning.

Wyatt offers a rare look into the fastest-growing, least-examined type of incarceration in America, an industry that detains half a million people a year, up from a few thousand just 15 years ago. The system operates without the rules that protect criminal suspects, and has grown up with little oversight, often in the backyards of communities desperate for any source of money and work.

“Without the rules that protect criminal suspects.� The prison was supposed to be an industry for a depressed city, and a benefit for society–keeping dangerous criminals confined. Central Falls would get good jobs and steady revenue.

But at least in Central Falls, the incarceration economy was not delivering on its promise.

In late June, Mayor Moreau, a big man with a florid face and a police siren in his car, offered up a budget that laid off firefighters — and told angry city employees to get used to it.

“We’re at the end of the financial rope for Central Falls,� he told the City Council, citing more than 200 boarded-up homes, foreclosures at the rate of 25 a week, and cuts in state and federal aid that required a 4 percent property tax increase and an 8 percent spending cut in the new $17.4 million budget.

Outside, past the defunct factory where Hasbro once made G. I. Joe, beyond the rusty hulk of the downsized Sylvania plant, the summer twilight gleamed on Wyatt’s new facade.

What had happened to the windfall of money and jobs it had offered?

The jail’s annual revenue had almost doubled in a year, to $21 million, mainly from increasing immigration detention. But the city budget projected revenue of only $525,000 from Wyatt, which is exempt from taxes.

That was not even enough to cover its share of city services, according to an estimate by the city’s finance department.

I imagine deals were made with fast-talking entrepreneurs, and contracts signed, and citizens hustled into voting yes. How much of the drain of people and resources from Central Falls is due to the immigration crackdown? And how far do we want to go in constructing a category of people without rights and prisons to confine them?

The article is long and detailed. You can read it here.

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4 responses

  1. I want to thank the The New York Times for investigating the growing privatized prison industry in the US and how it is impacting Central Falls, RI. There are so many worrisome things about this situation, it’s hard to know where to begin. However, I find most concerning the way that people are being taken into custody without families being alerted and the question of whether people’s basic human rights and health care needs are being addressed in these prison settings. The way that Maynor Cante was shuttled around with his lawyer not being able to find him — that is appalling and speaks of a warped mentality that is just looking at the dollars and cents and forgetting they are dealing with human beings.

  2. I addressed on RI Future.There is no excuse for privatizing corrections or detention services.Like I said,if you must privatize do it with garbage pickup or food service,cleaning,etc.
    Custody of law violators is the purview of well-trained and vetted public employees subject to governmental oversight.

  3. I agree, Joe. Prison for profit creates a need for raw material=more prisoners. There are other ways to deal with law breaking. I don’t support locking up anyone who is not an imminent danger to society-I would look for other sanctions. Immigration reform is badly needed, incarceration should not be a first resort.

  4. Detaining illegal aliens is necessary because they have every reason to flee.However,the detention is not punitive,but designed to be as brief as possible pending return to their native country or other country they can travel to.Most long term detentions of aliens results from the aliens themselves contesting deportation or in a surprisingly large number of cases,the lack of necessary travel documents and the torpid pace of foreign governments to provide it to their own citizens.
    Legal residents who have become deportable as a result of criminal convictions are,I would argue frequently imminent dangers to society.
    However,we are agreed I think that none of this should be left to profit-making private companies.

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